The future of eye health management: how AI is revolutionising the care of optometry patients

Earlier this month, findings from a groundbreaking study conducted by researchers from the Clinical Data Warehouse (CDW) of Seoul National University Hospital Patients Research Environment revealed that artificial intelligence (AI) technology can help doctors determine a person’s likelihood of developing glaucoma and that AI has the potential to be a "helpful diagnostic aid" for clinicians to provide more effective treatment.

Considering these findings, we sat down with Jim Papas, who is the Managing Director of NWO Group and holds a BSc in Biochemistry and Pathology and a BSc in Optometry from The University of Melbourne, to look at the impact and influence AI is already having on the diagnosis and management of certain eye conditions and what the future holds for optometry.

Jim Papas, Managing Director of NWO Group

From a patient perspective, how has AI already impacted the patient eye care experience during routine check-ups and examinations? 

 AI has revolutionised eye care, elevating diagnostic precision with tools like crafting personalised treatment plans by tapping into retinal imaging results that have been analysed by AI technology. 

From a patient engagement perspective, AI-driven chatbots also continue to enhance communication between patient and practitioner while remote eye health monitoring through wearable devices and smartphone apps gives optometrists unprecedented access to detect early signs of disease.

How has AI contributed to more personalised and tailored optometry consultation experiences for individual patients? 

AI's impact on optometry is transformative. By offering optometrists the ability to tailor treatment plans through personalised analysis of medical history and lifestyle, AI technology can monitor patient’s eye health remotely, allowing for earlier diagnosis and treatment of various eye conditions. 

AI powered lenses also promise real-time vision correction and by providing personalised education materials and offering real time clinical decision support, AI has the capacity to enhance overall patient outcomes.

In what ways does AI contribute to preventive care and early detection of eye conditions, enhancing the overall eye health of patients? 

AI is reshaping eye care by revolutionising diagnostics through precise image analysis, offering personalised risk assessments, automating detection and alerts for early interventions, enabling remote monitoring and supporting population-level screening.  

From sophisticated diagnostic tools to AI-assisted treatment planning and patient empowerment, these advancements are not only supporting optometrists in the prevention of vision loss but also paving the way for AI-driven clinical trials and futuristic innovations like AI-powered contact lenses.  

The future of eye care is marked by AI's transformative impact on supporting optometrists in preventive care and early detection, enhancing overall eye health globally.

What role do you see AI playing in improving access to eye care services, especially in underserved communities and/or remote areas?  

AI holds immense potential in revolutionising eye care accessibility, especially in underserved and/or remote areas.  

From telemedicine platforms and diagnostic tools for remote exams to AI-assisted screening programs and self-testing devices, these innovations bridge gaps in healthcare infrastructure.  

AI-powered training, decision support, public health campaigns, data analysis and research also contribute to more effective, equitable eye care, overcoming geographical barriers and shortages of professionals.  

In leveraging AI, we can support the improvement of eye health outcomes for underserved populations globally.

In your opinion, what are the most exciting possibilities that AI holds for the future of optometry and eye health care? 

AI has the potential to unlock predictive approaches to disease prevention.  

From advanced diagnostic tools and remote eye care to innovative surgical guidance and vision restoration technologies, AI is reshaping the landscape of patient care. 

An AI supported future promises groundbreaking innovations that will redefine how we approach eye care and preserve vision.

A final thought 

Mr Papas iterates that while AI is a transformative tool in optometry and eye health care, it is not a replacement for optometrists or ophthalmologists but rather an extension of their skills.  

From automating tasks for efficient patient interactions to enhancing diagnostic capabilities, extending reach through telemedicine and accelerating drug development, AI collaborates with optometrists and ophthalmologists to unlock new possibilities and shape the future of eye health. 

Optometry Australia recommends visiting your optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam every two years (unless your medical practitioner or optometrist has advised that you have more frequent appointments), beginning the year a child starts primary school. 

You can use our Find an Optometrist search tool to book an appointment with your nearest optometrist today.

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